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Toronto Catholic teachers want to work from home on PA Day due to solar eclipse

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The union representing Toronto’s Catholic teachers is urging the school board to allow virtual PA Day participation due to the solar eclipse, citing safety concerns.

In a memo sent to teachers on Feb. 24, the Toronto Elementary Catholic Teachers (TECT) said it supported the board’s decision to move the P.A. Day from April 19 to April 8 to ensure student safety during the solar eclipse.

The union argued, however, that those same safety measures have not been extended to teachers. They have been advocating for virtual participation in professional development activities held on April 8, and according to the memo, there has been no movement.

“We are now further intensifying our efforts with senior staff and trustees to ensure that the P.A. Day be virtual,” TECT President Deborah Karam wrote.

“The board must act to better ensure the well-being of our members. Your safety is paramount.”

The Toronto Catholic School Board said the PA Day was rescheduled “after carefully considering the outdoor risks to students who may not understand the danger of looking directly at the sun to witness the solar eclipse.”

“While we have not received a formal request from TECT, it is a reasonable expectation that staff report to their school in-person for the P.A. day,” they said in a statement to CTV News Toronto.

The last time an eclipse was visible from major Canadian cities was in the 1970s. Scientists say the next one won’t be until 2079.

The solar event has caused multiple school boards across the Greater Toronto Area to swap PA Days to reduce safety concerns as students are dismissed around peak visibility times. They cited the dangers of looking directly at the eclipse and safety considerations around traffic and commuting.

The York Region District School Board is one of the few that is not swapping the professional activity day, citing prior commitments. Instead, schools will be dismissing students early, something that Education Minister Stephen Lecce says he is ‘not comfortable’ with.

“Obviously, safety of children is most important,” he said on Monday.

“School boards have the prerogative to use PD(PA) days if they want. What I don't support is closing schools without giving access to children to their educators.”

He noted that parents who have to work require additional alternatives.

The Canadian Space Agency says the celestial event will likely become visible in Hamilton around 3:18 p.m. The GTA is expected to get a “deep partial” view of the eclipse.

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